(Ff) Odst: Hellbound

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The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Prologue



November 5, 2552/UNSC Light Frigate Come and Get ‘Em/UNSC Space near Mars





The Frigate Come and Get ‘Em drifted silently through space. A month ago, the Come and Get ‘Em had been involved in aiding a heavier Halcyon-class cruiser- the Moonlit Sonata- in a tactical strike of an Insurrectionists outpost near Neptune. They were like most other Innies; hiding out in dangerous, asteroid ridden areas to prevent intrusions. It was a quick enough operation, in and out with as few civilian casualties as possible.



The Insurrectionist rebels had been intercepting supply ships to other UNSC colonies, and needed to be put in their place. The campaign had been in progress since June of 2552, and had been a constant effort for the following three months.



On August 30th, the crew had been alerted to the destruction of Reach. The Insurrectionist Campaign was halted, and the fleet was called back to the nearest UNSC outpost. Commander Buckley of the Come and Get ‘Em made the call for the ship to run dark, avoiding a slipspace jump. The crew was put on ice after a course was plotted to Io.



Now for some reason they were heading to Earth.



Sergeant Dana Hays walked into the Cryo-Deck, sighing softly. She was an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, or ODST. They were a sub-section of the UNSCDF Marines, and they were as close to Spartans as Marines could get.



Hays had been brought out of stasis two hours prior due to a system backup-command. In the event that the ship’s commanding crew didn’t wake when scheduled, Hays was assigned to investigate the problem. The Captain wouldn’t like the news, so the sooner he knew the better.



Sharp sirens cut through Captain Eric Rowas’ cryo-sleep. The alarm penetrated every attempt to block it out, squawking on every second and persisting until he punched the ‘disengage’ button.



“Rise and shine, Cap,”



His dark brown hair was lightly frosted, ice crystals clinging to his eyelids. Cryo-sleep was a difficult ordeal for soldiers; to be plain it flat out sucked. The techies required Marines strip down to scant underwear, and even that had to pass certain standards. Regular clothes were dangerous in cryo-stasis; they caused what the Marines referred to as ‘freezer burn’, and could even be the reason behind missing digits.



“Wake the rest of the squad Hays,” he ordered in a choked voice, “Then alert Commander Buckley that we’re active.”



“Would you like a hot towel, sir?”



“No, but I’ll need a sit-rep when I’m coherent. Wake the squad.”



The Sergeant nodded, punching a few buttons and engaging the wake-up cycle on the other four cryotubes in the room. She was from Reach, making her dry humor impressive given the planet’s fate. As the remaining cryotubes hissed open, Eric pounded his chest twice and hacked up the cryo-gel the Marines had to inhale and swallow to prevent internal damage. He spat the bland mess to the tube’s floor. The tubes featured an auto-clean feature for that very reason, as well as ensuring sterility for future inhabitants.



Climbing out of the tube, Eric watched Hays as she donned a pair of ODST issue battledress, noting how the cryo-sleep never seemed to bother the Sergeant. Her blonde hair was buzzed in the standard crew-cut, and the faint trace of a scar ran down the left side of her face. Still, Eric had to admit, were it not for regulations he would take her out for a beer.



Just not an Earth beer.



Dana glanced over at Eric, giving him a knowing look and an amused smile. She knew the Captain liked her- he always seemed to ask for her status first. It was sweet, she thought, and with humanity’s current situation one was always tempted to chuck the rules.



The ODST squad suited up, the chatter light despite waking from the uncomfortable situation. There were only six of them in Cryo-Bay One; the rest of the ship was in Cryo Three.



“Man, these clothes itch like hell!” a Private- James Cavetti complained. His voice was high pitched and thick with a Boston accent, making him annoying to be around but the squad liked it.



The Hispanic Marine next to him, Corporal Maria Riviera, shook her head and smacked the Private in the back of the head. “Yeah, stupid. That’s why they tell you to not wear ‘em.” She came from Monterrey, Mexico and had a tough, no-nonsense attitude about her that matched.



“Yeah? You just wanna see me in my boxers, Riviera.”



“You wish, Jimmy.”



Eric shook his head in amusement at the squads banter as he headed to the armory with Hays. “So what’s the situation, Sergeant?”



“It’s FUBAR, sir,” she replied with a frown, “when we passed through the Asteroid Belt several small meteors penetrated the hull. Thankfully the engine room was the only one hit, but it’s blown to hell and we’re at least five hours from Luna.”



Eric raised a brow, “Would you mind clarifying Sergeant? How much damage are we looking at here?”



“Blown to hell as in the engines were hit, as well as several utility lines. The engine room sealed as soon as we started loosing atmosphere. It stabilized the interior pressure, but we can’t get to the engine without depressurizing the entire cryo-deck.”



“So why don’t we just plot a course to Earth?”



The Sergeant paused. “That’s the real kicker. Our drive core was critically damaged, and there’s almost no way to repair it without going into a zero-atmosphere environment. We are able to do that, but the tools to fix it were lost when the hull was penetrated. Not only that but the damn AI Diana was critically damaged. We’ve got her basic functions, but nothing more.”



“So we’re completely adrift?”



“Yes, sir, for the moment. As I said we’re past Mars, so it would be more practical to repair the ship on Earth if we can hail a tow-freighter.”



Eric crossed his arms over his chest, his mouth tightening to a thin line. They were currently stranded, even if it was in UNSC space. Still, the Covenant wouldn’t care what space they were in- a sitting duck was an easy opportunity. “Have you informed Commander Buckley?”



“Sir,” the Sergeant said somberly, “that’s the biggest problem.”



Eric turned to face Hays, knowing what was coming next.



“Commander Buckley didn’t make it,” she sighed, “The lifelines were cut, and we’re the only remaining crew.”



Eric shook his head. While the Commander hadn’t been the most accepting of the uncouth ODST squad, it was still her ship and the ODST were just passengers. But the ship was under his command now, until the UNSC issued a new crew.



Now it looked as though the 427th ODST battalion was going to be taken out by lack of rations or a lazy plasma torpedo.



“Sergeant, as soon as you can send out a distress signal on all available frequencies,” the Captain ordered as they headed to the bridge, “Try to hail any UNSC tow-freighters near Mars and send a status report to an ONI Office on Earth- I don’t care which continent. We may be floating dead, but we can still make some noise.”



The Sergeant gave a salute. “Sir, yes sir.”



They paused as the door to the bridge verified their IFF tags before opening. Hays headed to a console, bringing the systems online. She pressed several keys on the panel, re-engaging the Navigational Optics. Static fuzzed on the observation display screen at the front of the Bridge.



An alarm suddenly sounded at the Navigation console and Hays ran to silence it, swearing as she read the report.



“Sir, major problem!” Hays shouted as she typed furiously at the keypad.



“Enlighten me, then,” Eric said urgently as he slipped into the Commander’s Chair, “what’s the situation?”



“You remember how we’re drifting?”



“Hard to forget, Sergeant.”



“We’re drifting directly towards Earth.” The Sergeant looked up with a tinge of panic playing at the edge of her eyes, “I can’t alter our trajectory drastically, but it’s putting us somewhere in the North American Midwest.”



Eric sat forward, pressing a hand to his mouth in thought. If they were headed towards Earth, there was no way they would be able to land safely with faulty engines. There was an even slimmer chance a tow-frigate would be able to slow or halt their approach.



There was only one way to land.



“Sergeant as we approach Earth I want you to navigate around the battle cluster as best you can. Use vent thrusters, weapons systems, I don’t care. Send a distress signal directly to Admiral Hood, I want them ready when we come barreling past. Then set a deployment mark before we hit the atmosphere. Lastly bring the squad to the Bridge ASAP and put the ship on full-alert.”



Hays saluted sharply. “Sir, yes sir.”



Throughout the rest of the ship, an alarm sounded- three short bursts on a delay of a half-second. It was a signal for the ODST to suit up and fast. The alarms signified that the ship was in danger, now the question was from what. A large, black Marine, Corporal Evan Richards, jumped to his feet. “Ah, hell!” he shouted, “Double-time it, Marines! We’re in trouble.”



“Shee-it,” Corporal Emily Hackett groaned. She was the new addition to their outfit, “I thought we was in UNSC space, not hankerin’ fer trouble!”



They were the character to the squad, he the tough, leveled muscle and she the usually good-spirited southern belle. He was from Mars; a tough, unforgiving world and in contrast she was from the west side of Memphis, Arkansas.



Even still, they were all possibly insane. They had to be to make the cut. ODST’s were a step above the rest of the Marines. They hit harder, shot truer, and showed a profound affinity for dangerous situations. That’s what it meant to be a Helljumper.



The ODST suited up quickly, dressing in their dark grey battledress uniforms and battle-armor painted a matte-black in opposition to the Marine’s dull green.



Aside from the color, their suit was different in many ways from standard Marines. They were able to stand zero-atmosphere environments, as the sealed helmets supplied oxygen for up to fifteen minutes. They also had more extensive protection than standard Marines, their uniforms featuring added armor.



After suiting up and arming their BR55HB SR Battle Rifles, the four soldiers headed to the bridge at a brisk pace, their boots thudding rhythmically against the steel deck.



When they arrived, Captain Rowas filled them in on their current situation. The debriefing was interrupted as Cavetti’s voice echoed across the room.



“Oh $#!T! Oh my God, man, oh $#!T!”



Eric rose from the chair, annoyed at the interruption. “Cavetti, what the hell are you yelling about?”



Corporal Riviera raised a finger, pointing to the now operational observation display. “Sir,” she said in shock, “You might want to see this.”



As Eric turned around he understood Jimmy’s outburst. On the display screen the aftermath of battle greeted them. The Earth’s Orbital Defense Grid had been all but obliterated, only a few of the MAC platforms remained.



The Earth was in a state of chaos. Several circular patterns of fire marked key cities and sites the Covenant had decided to glass for unknown reasons, though most were in Africa. Skeletons of UNSC Frigates and Halcyon-Class cruisers floated in an almost haunting manner through space, slowly orbiting the Earth in an eternal dance of death.



“Christ…” Eric breathed, collapsing back into his seat. The Covenant ships taking down were only about a tenth of the UNSC ships. Numerous fighter ships floated around the corpses of the destroyers and cruisers. More likely than not they were composed of Longsword fighters than the Covenant Seraphs.



“Sir,” Sergeant Hays cut through the shock that had permeated through the deck, “We’re still drifting. Approaching deployment mark in ten.” Now the Sergeant understood why they were at Earth. The ship’s AI must have received a distress call, and altered their course accordingly.



Rowas stood, grabbing his helmet- the only one with a red Squad Leader stripe- as he shook the sense of shock from his head. “You heard her, boys and girls. We’ve got a hot date in ten minutes. Get a full clip and as many grenades as you can carry. Hackett, you have medical. Pack six cans of MedGel; Richards and Hays, pack two each just in case. Cavetti, grab 24 rounds and store 16 with Richards.”



The small squad nodded, a chorus of “Yes, sir” filling the bridge.



“Head to your pods and strap in tight! There’s hell down on Earth, and what’s a bit of hell without us? Sergeant Hays, lock in the deployment mark to the HEV release, then gear up and lock in.”



The Sergeant nodded and set in the appropriate commands. She hurried to the Deployment Deck with the rest of the squad, grabbing the necessary equipment. The ODST’s locked the doors to their Human Entry Vehicles, sealed the interior pressure, and then waited as the countdown was projected on their HUD’s.



Time to go to work, Captain Rowas thought to himself as he locked his helmet on, Bout damn time, too.
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Chapter 1





November 5, 2552/Earth/13:45 Central Standard Time (CST)



Eric winced briefly as his HEV’s cover rocketed from the pod. He looked around, surprised to see green grass. He stepped out of the pod, releasing the safety on his Battle Rifle and gathering a more complete view of his position.



To the south he saw a telltale landmark; the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The monument was about five centuries old, yet the city of St. Louis had never let it fall into disrepair.



To their credit, the monument looked as though it was still 2010.



“This is Captain Eric Rowas of the 427th ODST Battalion, broadcasting to any available UNSC forces,“ he said as he surveyed the area, “My squad and I have landed in St. Louis approximately fifteen miles north-west of the Gateway Arch. UNSC Come and Get ‘Em crash-landed in sector B5-North St. Louis. Crew KIA prior to atmospheric reentry; please respond, over.”



The city looked like a ghost town. The trams had stopped, and smoke rose from several unseen fires. Some of the skyscrapers were decimated, ruined skeletons of the former structures. However most of the city still stood, though it was probably infested with Covies.



The Captain’s earpiece crackled, the damaged antennae in the city interfering with the signal. “427th, this is the 26th of Springfield, Illinois broadcasting from Ft. Manning. Your distress signal was received by ONI New York, and sent to HIGHCOM in an official report. Be advised; high Covenant activity in St. Louis, both factions. Civilian occupancy minimal, if at all.”



“Copy that, 26th. Rowas out.” He didn’t know what they meant by ‘both factions’, but any Covenant he saw was as good as dead.



Eric uploaded a map of St. Louis to his HUD, his squad’s IFF tags displayed over their coordinates. The map then projected on his Heads-Up Display over the existing terrain, the NAV points and IFF indicators appearing behind a hill, through a copse of trees; wherever his squad was located according to his current position.



He opened up the squad comm-line, his ear-piece fuzzing with static for a moment. “Helljumpers, fall in.” he ordered. His squad’s vitals appeared on the right side of his HUD; all green. Their jump had been a success, meaning that none of the squad had died. Hackett had hollered like she was in a rodeo the whole way down, but she was the only one to have vocalized anything.



Speak of the cowgirl, Eric thought as she arrived first, trotting over a small hill like she was heading to a kegger.



“Helluva ride, sir. I see why ya’ll like it so much,” she grinned through a 15% polarized visor, “but why’d we land here?”



“Not a clue, Corporal,” the Captain replied, “but I’m sure that St. Louis will need our help.”



“Misery, huh?” The Corporal said, sitting down on a rock and looking to the Arch.



“Pardon?”



“Misery. It’s what my ma always called Missour-ah. I guess it’s kinda-a ironic name now, seein’ as how the Covenant’s here and all.”



“I see,” Rowas said, stifling his amusement at her Southern drawl for the sake of his home city.



The rest of the squad arrived at the rendezvous point. “Area secure, sir,” Sergeant Hays said with a salute, “Ran into a couple Grunts when I landed, but now they’re taking a dirt nap.”



“Man, can you believe this?” Jimmy shouted in excitement, “I shot right under the Arch comin’ in like I was a freakin’ home-run ball. I coulda reached out an touched it if-“



“Jimmy,” Eric barked in annoyance, “Stow it.”



“Ahem,” the Private nodded, clearing his throat in embarrassment, “Sir, yes sir.”



“We’ve got a situation, Marines,” the Captain said, “Hays your methane-sucking chimps mean that the Covenant’s still here. Expect Elites and Hunters, as well as more Grunts and Jackals. I would also hope to God they don’t have Apes.” Eric shook his head, only imagining what a Brute would do to the squad.



“Yeah?” Richards smirked, hefting a M19 SSM Rocket Launcher, the word SPNKr painted in white letters down the sides of the rocket tubes, “Well I got a few surprises waiting for them if they decide to play rough.”



Aside from being the muscle of the group, Richards was also the demolitions specialist. His battle-armor was thicker than the standard issue, particularly around the chest, arms and neck, allowing him added protection in the likely event of an explosion.



After going over the groups’ individual recons, Captain Rowas allowed the squad some time to recuperate after their drop. They dug into their packs, pulling out Army-issued Meals-Ready-to-Eat.



Riviera shook her head at Hackett as she broke open an MRE, pointing to her helmet. “Oi, Texas, what the hell’d you do to your visor?”



Hackett smirked, a section of her visor now polarized to 100% in the appearance of aviator sunglasses. The rest of the visor was still 15%, showing her face. “It’s Arkansas,” she teased back as she removed the helmet to eat.



“Yeah, well you’re all honky-tonks and cowgirls to me, chica,” Riviera grinned in reply, “So what’d you do to the visor?”



“I recalibrated it. Got some techie to customize it when I was posted on Reach.”



Riviera frowned, “$#!T,” she shook her head, “Tough chance of getting’ one for myself. How’d they do it?”



“It’s two separate pieces of visor-glass. The sensors run to separate polarization managers, so I can adjust them separately, or equal them out. I thought it’d be kick-ass, and it was only fifteen hundred credits.”



Riviera smirked. “I coulda done that for less.”



The Sergeant conversed with the Captain alone, a few feet away from the rest of the squad. “Sir, what’s our objective?” she asked.



“Currently Sergeant?” Eric replied, “We make our way into the city. We neutralize any Covenant hostiles, and we retake the city.”



“What about Earth, sir?”



Eric laughed sarcastically, “Hays you want to save the world you get me one of Halsey’s ‘Wonder-Soldier’ Spartans. Until then we focus on St. Louis, then worry about Earth.”



Dana furrowed her brow. “Sir, this isn’t personal, is it?”



“Why, because I grew up here?” Eric sighed. “It’s hard for it not to be personal, Sergeant, my home is a mess. If you’re asking if I set the HEV trajectory to St. Louis; no. I’ve no reason why we landed here, but as a duty to Earth we’re staying.”



Hays nodded, “Sir, I wasn’t suggesting we leave. I just hope you don’t get distracted by personal objectives.”



The Captain chuckled. “Are you kidding?” he smirked grimly, “If anything I’ll fight harder.”



Jimmy sat on a stump, eying the city and cradling a SRS99C-S2 AMB sniper rifle. He was the squad’s sniper, even though he was the jitteriest of the group. When he looked through the scope of his sniper rifle, he was steady as a rock.



“Oi, sir!” he shouted, spotting a glimmer of metal in the distance, “We got company!” he raised the sniper rifle, the image through the scope appearing on his HUD.



He zoomed to 10x magnification, seeing a squad of four Grunts and two Elites. One of the Elites wore the blue of a Domo-Minor. The other wore the much more honored gold of a Zealot. “Oh $#!T,” a knot formed in his gut, “Covies, sir!”



Eric ran to Cavetti, zooming his HUD forward 2x to get a glimpse at what the Private was seeing. “Jee-zus!” he hissed, “Marines, get combat-ready!” He raised his battle rifle, waiting for the Covenant forces to come in range.



“Sir, their laying down their weapons,” Cavetti said, “Should we fire?” he looked at the Captain, confusion plain in his voice though his helmet’s visor was fully polarized.



“Remain alert,” Eric ordered, “If they attack, Richards I want you to take out the Elites.”



“With what, sir?”



“After the Private takes out their shields, shove a rocket down their throat.” Eric said plainly.



The Covenant moved closer, their hands held in plain sight. The humans were still visually tense. Riviera kept her Battle Rifle trained on the Elites, her fingers tightening and loosening on the hold in anticipation.



“427th to Ft. Manning, Covenant inbound; two Elites and a handful of Grunts. Targets have laid down their weapons and appear to be surrendering, please advise.”



The response was immediate, the Marine sounding almost panicked. “427th do not engage, repeat do not engage! Covenant Separatist forces are protected under the Delta Alliance, and any motion against them would be a breech of the alliance. Do not engage!” Eric opened up the comm so the whole squad would get the order.



“You gotta be $#!Ttin’ me,” Hackett said in surprise, keeping her rifle trained on the aliens.



What happened next shocked the ODST. With mild disdain, the two Elites knelt in respect, the Grunts following suite. The Elites garbled in their native tongue, the Marines instantly understanding as their translation implants kicked in.



“Humans,” the Zealot growled, “I am Esa ‘Rimu. Events have occurred among our blood that would condemn us to death-“



“You want death, pendejo?” Riviera shouted as she took a step towards the Minor her rifle aimed at his face, “The hell’d you do to Earth? All these people dead, and for what? Your freakin’ Great Journey?”



“Riviera, stand down!” the Captain barked.



Though it was classified to the civilian public, most if not all Marines knew the name of the Covenant’s cause, but few knew the horrific details. Several Grunt prisoners had spouted on about the Great Journey when interrogated. They were the best information the UNSC could usually get- the Elites usually killed themselves when captured.



Hackett pulled the Corporal away from the Elite. “Hey, I know it’s tough,” she shouted, “Lord only knows what they’ve done to mah home. But this ain’t the time, ‘kay?” Riviera nodded, head-butting Hackett’s helmet in affirmation. Emily clapped her on the shoulder, letting her go.



The Minor stood up, his mandibles twitching in agitation. “I am Nosu ‘Vadam, “he said with a bow of his head, “My blood, and the rest of the Sangheili, honor our kaidon Thel ‘Vadam as Arbiter. His word is our command now, and he has made peace with your demon.”



“Our demon?” Eric asked as the Grunts chattered in fear, “What does that mean?”



Esa searched for another word. “Your Spartan; the one you call ‘Master Chief.’”



“He means Sierra-117, sir,” Hays realized, “I saw a documentary vid on his promotion when I was back on Reach.”



Eric gave a nod, lowered his rifle. The squad reluctantly following suite, though they didn’t seem any more comfortable with the situation. “You,” he pointed at the Zealot, “I want to know everything you know. Helljumpers, take five. Make sure the rest don’t go anywhere.”



“Sir…” Hays said worriedly over a private comm.



“Relax, Sarge,” he said, “If anything happens to me, you’re in command. As my final order to you; kill the bastards.”



“Now, sir?”



“No, only if this Zealot kills me, Sergeant. For now, stand down.” Hays nodded, giving a sharp salute as Eric and the Zealot walked towards a small playground partially surrounded by an artificially planted forest.



“Alright,” Eric said coldly, “start talking. Though I’m not complaining, why aren’t we dead?”



The Zealot huffed in mild amusement. “Even you admit our skill in battle. You are not dead because we are now allies, human. We have been enlightened to the truth of this war, and it would mean dishonor for our keeps were we to break this alliance.”



“So why’d you throw in the towel?” Eric asked, setting his helmet aside as he sat on a picnic table, “I thought your Covenant’s big thing was that you were all one big happy family.”



“Not so peaceful, human. The Prophets manipulated and lied to us. When we found out the truth, we left. Much blood was shed, and many Sangheili lost their lives, but in the end we were free. Now we side with your kind in hopes to stop Truth on his mad journey to become divine.”



“So why now?” Eric asked, “Why’d you finally come to your senses and split, instead of several decades ago when humanity didn’t flat out hate you?”



“We honored your people,” Esa told Eric, “Even as the Prophet’s willed us to destroy you. We wondered, ‘why? Why have the Prophets turned a blind hand to these humans?’ It was a confusing matter for us, one that shook our faith in the Prophet’s word.”



“Yeah?” Eric asked, sitting on a plastic bench, “Well you sure didn’t ease up in battle any. I lost too many good men to your kind.”



The Elite nodded in acknowledgment. “And I to your demon. However the Sangheili honored your dead, never treading on them once they rested. Your demon killed, and then ravaged our dead for their weapons.”



“He did what needed to be done to survive,” Eric argued.



“Survive he did,” the Elite said, “and we respect him no less for it. You humans do not know our ways; blood is not sacred to you as it is to us. We do not fault your demon for what he has done.”



Eric looked off to the Gateway Arch. “Would you kill him? If you met him, I mean.” He asked.



Esa studied the human for a while. “I would wish to; my blood cries for vengeance. But my honor would silence them, and I would spare him. I would feel no kinship for him, as I do not for you and yours; but I honor you, and I honor the demon.”



“Yeah,” Eric agreed, “I would have killed ya if you would have so much as flipped me off. But I had my orders to stand down, so you and your squad didn’t get an ass full of lead. Now we’re in the same boat with different looking oars.”



Esa nodded, understanding the tentative alliance.



“So what’s the plan?”



The Zealot pointed off in the distance to the Gateway Arch. “Your monument has been taken. The Jiralhanae have stolen it for their cruel devices. They have many Unggoy, and they have made them fear to fight more viciously.”



Eric waved a hand in confusion, “The hell’s a Jiral-hane? Or a- an ug-ugoy for that matter?”



“The Jiralhanae are what you call ‘Brutes’, and rightfully so.” Esa growled, “They have no honor. They would sooner kill their blood than serve it. The Unggoy are Grunts; they are weak in body and mind, but they serve without protest and are useful in large numbers.”



“But don’t you have Grunts with you?”



The Elite nodded. “Those Unggoy are loyal to us, not the Prophets. They accepted the truth of the Flood threat as well as the lies of the Prophets, and they have no love for the Jiralhanae.”



“Fair enough,” Eric nodded, “So what do we intend to do about the Brutes?”



The Zealot chuckled deeply, “We kill them, human, and then we take your city back.”

November 5, 2552/Earth/13:45 Central Standard Time (CST)



Eric winced briefly as his HEV’s cover rocketed from the pod. He looked around, surprised to see green grass. He stepped out of the pod, releasing the safety on his Battle Rifle and gathering a more complete view of his position.



To the south he saw a telltale landmark; the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The monument was about five centuries old, yet the city of St. Louis had never let it fall into disrepair.



To their credit, the monument looked as though it was still 2010.



“This is Captain Eric Rowas of the 427th ODST Battalion, broadcasting to any available UNSC forces,“ he said as he surveyed the area, “My squad and I have landed in St. Louis approximately fifteen miles north-west of the Gateway Arch. UNSC Come and Get ‘Em crash-landed in sector B5-North St. Louis. Crew KIA prior to atmospheric reentry; please respond, over.”



The city looked like a ghost town. The trams had stopped, and smoke rose from several unseen fires. Some of the skyscrapers were decimated, ruined skeletons of the former structures. However most of the city still stood, though it was probably infested with Covies.



The Captain’s earpiece crackled, the damaged antennae in the city interfering with the signal. “427th, this is the 26th of Springfield, Illinois broadcasting from Ft. Manning. Your distress signal was received by ONI New York, and sent to HIGHCOM in an official report. Be advised; high Covenant activity in St. Louis, both factions. Civilian occupancy minimal, if at all.”



“Copy that, 26th. Rowas out.” He didn’t know what they meant by ‘both factions’, but any Covenant he saw was as good as dead.



Eric uploaded a map of St. Louis to his HUD, his squad’s IFF tags displayed over their coordinates. The map then projected on his Heads-Up Display over the existing terrain, the NAV points and IFF indicators appearing behind a hill, through a copse of trees; wherever his squad was located according to his current position.



He opened up the squad comm-line, his ear-piece fuzzing with static for a moment. “Helljumpers, fall in.” he ordered. His squad’s vitals appeared on the right side of his HUD; all green. Their jump had been a success, meaning that none of the squad had died. Hackett had hollered like she was in a rodeo the whole way down, but she was the only one to have vocalized anything.



Speak of the cowgirl, Eric thought as she arrived first, trotting over a small hill like she was heading to a kegger.



“Helluva ride, sir. I see why ya’ll like it so much,” she grinned through a 15% polarized visor, “but why’d we land here?”



“Not a clue, Corporal,” the Captain replied, “but I’m sure that St. Louis will need our help.”



“Misery, huh?” The Corporal said, sitting down on a rock and looking to the Arch.



“Pardon?”



“Misery. It’s what my ma always called Missour-ah. I guess it’s kinda-a ironic name now, seein’ as how the Covenant’s here and all.”



“I see,” Rowas said, stifling his amusement at her Southern drawl for the sake of his home city.



The rest of the squad arrived at the rendezvous point. “Area secure, sir,” Sergeant Hays said with a salute, “Ran into a couple Grunts when I landed, but now they’re taking a dirt nap.”



“Man, can you believe this?” Jimmy shouted in excitement, “I shot right under the Arch comin’ in like I was a freakin’ home-run ball. I coulda reached out an touched it if-“



“Jimmy,” Eric barked in annoyance, “Stow it.”



“Ahem,” the Private nodded, clearing his throat in embarrassment, “Sir, yes sir.”



“We’ve got a situation, Marines,” the Captain said, “Hays your methane-sucking chimps mean that the Covenant’s still here. Expect Elites and Hunters, as well as more Grunts and Jackals. I would also hope to God they don’t have Apes.” Eric shook his head, only imagining what a Brute would do to the squad.



“Yeah?” Richards smirked, hefting a M19 SSM Rocket Launcher, the word SPNKr painted in white letters down the sides of the rocket tubes, “Well I got a few surprises waiting for them if they decide to play rough.”



Aside from being the muscle of the group, Richards was also the demolitions specialist. His battle-armor was thicker than the standard issue, particularly around the chest, arms and neck, allowing him added protection in the likely event of an explosion.



After going over the groups’ individual recons, Captain Rowas allowed the squad some time to recuperate after their drop. They dug into their packs, pulling out Army-issued Meals-Ready-to-Eat.



Riviera shook her head at Hackett as she broke open an MRE, pointing to her helmet. “Oi, Texas, what the hell’d you do to your visor?”



Hackett smirked, a section of her visor now polarized to 100% in the appearance of aviator sunglasses. The rest of the visor was still 15%, showing her face. “It’s Arkansas,” she teased back as she removed the helmet to eat.



“Yeah, well you’re all honky-tonks and cowgirls to me, chica,” Riviera grinned in reply, “So what’d you do to the visor?”



“I recalibrated it. Got some techie to customize it when I was posted on Reach.”



Riviera frowned, “$#!T,” she shook her head, “Tough chance of getting’ one for myself. How’d they do it?”



“It’s two separate pieces of visor-glass. The sensors run to separate polarization managers, so I can adjust them separately, or equal them out. I thought it’d be kick-ass, and it was only fifteen hundred credits.”



Riviera smirked. “I coulda done that for less.”



The Sergeant conversed with the Captain alone, a few feet away from the rest of the squad. “Sir, what’s our objective?” she asked.



“Currently Sergeant?” Eric replied, “We make our way into the city. We neutralize any Covenant hostiles, and we retake the city.”



“What about Earth, sir?”



Eric laughed sarcastically, “Hays you want to save the world you get me one of Halsey’s ‘Wonder-Soldier’ Spartans. Until then we focus on St. Louis, then worry about Earth.”



Dana furrowed her brow. “Sir, this isn’t personal, is it?”



“Why, because I grew up here?” Eric sighed. “It’s hard for it not to be personal, Sergeant, my home is a mess. If you’re asking if I set the HEV trajectory to St. Louis; no. I’ve no reason why we landed here, but as a duty to Earth we’re staying.”



Hays nodded, “Sir, I wasn’t suggesting we leave. I just hope you don’t get distracted by personal objectives.”



The Captain chuckled. “Are you kidding?” he smirked grimly, “If anything I’ll fight harder.”



Jimmy sat on a stump, eying the city and cradling a SRS99C-S2 AMB sniper rifle. He was the squad’s sniper, even though he was the jitteriest of the group. When he looked through the scope of his sniper rifle, he was steady as a rock.



“Oi, sir!” he shouted, spotting a glimmer of metal in the distance, “We got company!” he raised the sniper rifle, the image through the scope appearing on his HUD.



He zoomed to 10x magnification, seeing a squad of four Grunts and two Elites. One of the Elites wore the blue of a Domo-Minor. The other wore the much more honored gold of a Zealot. “Oh $#!T,” a knot formed in his gut, “Covies, sir!”



Eric ran to Cavetti, zooming his HUD forward 2x to get a glimpse at what the Private was seeing. “Jee-zus!” he hissed, “Marines, get combat-ready!” He raised his battle rifle, waiting for the Covenant forces to come in range.



“Sir, their laying down their weapons,” Cavetti said, “Should we fire?” he looked at the Captain, confusion plain in his voice though his helmet’s visor was fully polarized.



“Remain alert,” Eric ordered, “If they attack, Richards I want you to take out the Elites.”



“With what, sir?”



“After the Private takes out their shields, shove a rocket down their throat.” Eric said plainly.



The Covenant moved closer, their hands held in plain sight. The humans were still visually tense. Riviera kept her Battle Rifle trained on the Elites, her fingers tightening and loosening on the hold in anticipation.



“427th to Ft. Manning, Covenant inbound; two Elites and a handful of Grunts. Targets have laid down their weapons and appear to be surrendering, please advise.”



The response was immediate, the Marine sounding almost panicked. “427th do not engage, repeat do not engage. Covenant Separatist forces are protected under the Delta Alliance, and any motion against them would be a breech of the alliance. Do not engage!” Eric opened up the comm so the whole squad would get the order.



“You gotta be $#!Ttin’ me,” Hackett said in surprise, keeping her rifle trained on the aliens.



What happened next shocked the ODST. With mild disdain, the two Elites knelt in respect, the Grunts following suite. The Elites garbled in their native tongue, the Marines instantly understanding as their translation implants kicked in.



“Humans,” the Zealot growled, “I am Esa ‘Rimu. Events have occurred among our blood that would condemn us to death-“



“You want death, pendejo?” Riviera shouted as she took a step towards the Minor her rifle aimed at his face, “The hell’d you do to Earth? All these people dead, and for what? Your freakin’ Great Journey?”



“Riviera, stand down!” the Captain barked.



Though it was classified to the civilian public, most if not all Marines knew the name of the Covenant’s cause, but few knew the horrific details. Several Grunt prisoners had spouted on about the Great Journey when interrogated. They were the best information the UNSC could usually get- the Elites usually killed themselves when captured.



Hackett pulled the Corporal away from the Elite. “Hey, I know it’s tough,” she shouted, “Lord only knows what they’ve done to mah home. But this ain’t the time, ‘kay?” Riviera nodded, head-butting Hackett’s helmet in affirmation. Emily clapped her on the shoulder, letting her go.



The Minor stood up, his mandibles twitching in agitation. “I am Nosu ‘Vadam, “he said with a bow of his head, “My blood, and the rest of the Sangheili, honor our kaidon Thel ‘Vadam as Arbiter. His word is our command now, and he has made peace with your demon.”



“Our demon?” Eric asked as the Grunts chattered in fear, “What does that mean?”



Esa searched for another word. “Your Spartan; the one you call ‘Master Chief.’”



“He means Sierra-117, sir,” Hays realized, “I saw a documentary vid on his promotion when I was back on Reach.”



Eric gave a nod, lowered his rifle. The squad reluctantly following suite, though they didn’t seem any more comfortable with the situation. “You,” he pointed at the Zealot, “I want to know everything you know. Helljumpers, take five. Make sure the rest don’t go anywhere.”



“Sir…” Hays said worriedly over a private comm.



“Relax, Sarge,” he said, “If anything happens to me, you’re in command. As my final order to you; kill the bastards.”



“Now, sir?”



“No, only if this Zealot kills me, Sergeant. For now, stand down.” Hays nodded, giving a sharp salute as Eric and the Zealot walked towards a small playground partially surrounded by an artificially planted forest.



“Alright,” Eric said coldly, “start talking. Though I’m not complaining, why aren’t we dead?”



The Zealot huffed in mild amusement. “Even you admit our skill in battle. You are not dead because we are now allies, human. We have been enlightened to the truth of this war, and it would mean dishonor for our keeps were we to break this alliance.”



“So why’d you throw in the towel?” Eric asked, setting his helmet aside as he sat on a picnic table, “I thought your Covenant’s big thing was that you were all one big happy family.”



“Not so peaceful, human. The Prophets manipulated and lied to us. When we found out the truth, we left. Much blood was shed, and many Sangheili lost their lives, but in the end we were free. Now we side with your kind in hopes to stop Truth on his mad journey to become divine.”



“So why now?” Eric asked, “Why’d you finally come to your senses and split, instead of several decades ago when humanity didn’t flat out hate you?”



“We honored your people,” Esa told Eric, “Even as the Prophet’s willed us to destroy you. We wondered, ‘why? Why have the Prophets turned a blind hand to these humans?’ It was a confusing matter for us, one that shook our faith in the Prophet’s word.”



“Yeah?” Eric asked, sitting on a plastic bench, “Well you sure didn’t ease up in battle any. I lost too many good men to your kind.”



The Elite nodded in acknowledgment. “And I to your demon. However the Sangheili honored your dead, never treading on them once they rested. Your demon killed, and then ravaged our dead for their weapons.”



“He did what needed to be done to survive,” Eric argued.



“Survive he did,” the Elite said, “and we respect him no less for it. You humans do not know our ways; blood is not sacred to you as it is to us. We do not fault your demon for what he has done.”



Eric looked off to the Gateway Arch. “Would you kill him? If you met him, I mean.” He asked.



Esa studied the human for a while. “I would wish to; my blood cries for vengeance. But my honor would silence them, and I would spare him. I would feel no kinship for him, as I do not for you and yours; but I honor you, and I honor the demon.”



“Yeah,” Eric agreed, “I would have killed ya if you would have so much as flipped me off. But I had my orders to stand down, so you and your squad didn’t get an ass full of lead. Now we’re in the same boat with different looking oars.”



Esa nodded, understanding the tentative alliance.



“So what’s the plan?”



The Zealot pointed off in the distance to the Gateway Arch. “Your monument has been taken. The Jiralhanae have stolen it for their cruel devices. They have many Unggoy, and they have made them fear to fight more viciously.”



Eric waved a hand in confusion, “The hell’s a Jiral-hane? Or a- an ug-ugoy for that matter?”



“The Jiralhanae are what you call ‘Brutes’, and rightfully so.” Esa growled, “They have no honor. They would sooner kill their blood than serve it. The Unggoy are Grunts; they are weak in body and mind, but they serve without protest and are useful in large numbers.”



“But don’t you have Grunts with you?”



The Elite nodded. “Those Unggoy are loyal to us, not the Prophets. They accepted the truth of the Flood threat as well as the lies of the Prophets, and they have no love for the Jiralhanae.”



“Fair enough,” Eric nodded, “So what do we intend to do about the Brutes?”



The Zealot chuckled deeply, “We kill them, human, and then we take your city back.”

November 5, 2552/Earth/13:45 Central Standard Time (CST)



Eric winced briefly as his HEV’s cover rocketed from the pod. He looked around, surprised to see green grass. He stepped out of the pod, releasing the safety on his Battle Rifle and gathering a more complete view of his position.



To the south he saw a telltale landmark; the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The monument was about five centuries old, yet the city of St. Louis had never let it fall into disrepair.



To their credit, the monument looked as though it was still 2010.



“This is Captain Eric Rowas of the 427th ODST Battalion, broadcasting to any available UNSC forces,“ he said as he surveyed the area, “My squad and I have landed in St. Louis approximately fifteen miles north-west of the Gateway Arch. UNSC Come and Get ‘Em crash-landed in sector B5-North St. Louis. Crew KIA prior to atmospheric reentry; please respond, over.”



The city looked like a ghost town. The trams had stopped, and smoke rose from several unseen fires. Some of the skyscrapers were decimated, ruined skeletons of the former structures. However most of the city still stood, though it was probably infested with Covies.



The Captain’s earpiece crackled, the damaged antennae in the city interfering with the signal. “427th, this is the 26th of Springfield, Illinois broadcasting from Ft. Manning. Your distress signal was received by ONI New York, and sent to HIGHCOM in an official report. Be advised; high Covenant activity in St. Louis, both factions. Civilian occupancy minimal, if at all.”



“Copy that, 26th. Rowas out.” He didn’t know what they meant by ‘both factions’, but any Covenant he saw was as good as dead.



Eric uploaded a map of St. Louis to his HUD, his squad’s IFF tags displayed over their coordinates. The map then projected on his Heads-Up Display over the existing terrain, the NAV points and IFF indicators appearing behind a hill, through a copse of trees; wherever his squad was located according to his current position.



He opened up the squad comm-line, his ear-piece fuzzing with static for a moment. “Helljumpers, fall in.” he ordered. His squad’s vitals appeared on the right side of his HUD; all green. Their jump had been a success, meaning that none of the squad had died. Hackett had hollered like she was in a rodeo the whole way down, but she was the only one to have vocalized anything.



Speak of the cowgirl, Eric thought as she arrived first, trotting over a small hill like she was heading to a kegger.



“Helluva ride, sir. I see why ya’ll like it so much,” she grinned through a 15% polarized visor, “but why’d we land here?”



“Not a clue, Corporal,” the Captain replied, “but I’m sure that St. Louis will need our help.”



“Misery, huh?” The Corporal said, sitting down on a rock and looking to the Arch.



“Pardon?”



“Misery. It’s what my ma always called Missour-ah. I guess it’s kinda-a ironic name now, seein’ as how the Covenant’s here and all.”



“I see,” Rowas said, stifling his amusement at her Southern drawl for the sake of his home city.



The rest of the squad arrived at the rendezvous point. “Area secure, sir,” Sergeant Hays said with a salute, “Ran into a couple Grunts when I landed, but now they’re taking a dirt nap.”



“Man, can you believe this?” Jimmy shouted in excitement, “I shot right under the Arch comin’ in like I was a freakin’ home-run ball. I coulda reached out an touched it if-“



“Jimmy,” Eric barked in annoyance, “Stow it.”



“Ahem,” the Private nodded, clearing his throat in embarrassment, “Sir, yes sir.”



“We’ve got a situation, Marines,” the Captain said, “Hays your methane-sucking chimps mean that the Covenant’s still here. Expect Elites and Hunters, as well as more Grunts and Jackals. I would also hope to God they don’t have Apes.” Eric shook his head, only imagining what a Brute would do to the squad.



“Yeah?” Richards smirked, hefting a M19 SSM Rocket Launcher, the word SPNKr painted in white letters down the sides of the rocket tubes, “Well I got a few surprises waiting for them if they decide to play rough.”



Aside from being the muscle of the group, Richards was also the demolitions specialist. His battle-armor was thicker than the standard issue, particularly around the chest, arms and neck, allowing him added protection in the likely event of an explosion.



After going over the groups’ individual recons, Captain Rowas allowed the squad some time to recuperate after their drop. They dug into their packs, pulling out Army-issued Meals-Ready-to-Eat.



Riviera shook her head at Hackett as she broke open an MRE, pointing to her helmet. “Oi, Texas, what the hell’d you do to your visor?”



Hackett smirked, a section of her visor now polarized to 100% in the appearance of aviator sunglasses. The rest of the visor was still 15%, showing her face. “It’s Arkansas,” she teased back as she removed the helmet to eat.



“Yeah, well you’re all honky-tonks and cowgirls to me, chica,” Riviera grinned in reply, “So what’d you do to the visor?”



“I recalibrated it. Got some techie to customize it when I was posted on Reach.”



Riviera frowned, “$#!T,” she shook her head, “Tough chance of getting’ one for myself. How’d they do it?”



“It’s two separate pieces of visor-glass. The sensors run to separate polarization managers, so I can adjust them separately, or equal them out. I thought it’d be kick-ass, and it was only fifteen hundred credits.”



Riviera smirked. “I coulda done that for less.”



The Sergeant conversed with the Captain alone, a few feet away from the rest of the squad. “Sir, what’s our objective?” she asked.



“Currently Sergeant?” Eric replied, “We make our way into the city. We neutralize any Covenant hostiles, and we retake the city.”



“What about Earth, sir?”



Eric laughed sarcastically, “Hays you want to save the world you get me one of Halsey’s ‘Wonder-Soldier’ Spartans. Until then we focus on St. Louis, then worry about Earth.”



Dana furrowed her brow. “Sir, this isn’t personal, is it?”



“Why, because I grew up here?” Eric sighed. “It’s hard for it not to be personal, Sergeant, my home is a mess. If you’re asking if I set the HEV trajectory to St. Louis; no. I’ve no reason why we landed here, but as a duty to Earth we’re staying.”



Hays nodded, “Sir, I wasn’t suggesting we leave. I just hope you don’t get distracted by personal objectives.”



The Captain chuckled. “Are you kidding?” he smirked grimly, “If anything I’ll fight harder.”



Jimmy sat on a stump, eying the city and cradling a SRS99C-S2 AMB sniper rifle. He was the squad’s sniper, even though he was the jitteriest of the group. When he looked through the scope of his sniper rifle, he was steady as a rock.



“Oi, sir!” he shouted, spotting a glimmer of metal in the distance, “We got company!” he raised the sniper rifle, the image through the scope appearing on his HUD.



He zoomed to 10x magnification, seeing a squad of four Grunts and two Elites. One of the Elites wore the blue of a Domo-Minor. The other wore the much more honored gold of a Zealot. “Oh $#!T,” a knot formed in his gut, “Covies, sir!”



Eric ran to Cavetti, zooming his HUD forward 2x to get a glimpse at what the Private was seeing. “Jee-zus!” he hissed, “Marines, get combat-ready!” He raised his battle rifle, waiting for the Covenant forces to come in range.



“Sir, their laying down their weapons,” Cavetti said, “Should we fire?” he looked at the Captain, confusion plain in his voice though his helmet’s visor was fully polarized.



“Remain alert,” Eric ordered, “If they attack, Richards I want you to take out the Elites.”



“With what, sir?”



“After the Private takes out their shields, shove a rocket down their throat.” Eric said plainly.



The Covenant moved closer, their hands held in plain sight. The humans were still visually tense. Riviera kept her Battle Rifle trained on the Elites, her fingers tightening and loosening on the hold in anticipation.



“427th to Ft. Manning, Covenant inbound; two Elites and a handful of Grunts. Targets have laid down their weapons and appear to be surrendering, please advise.”



The response was immediate, the Marine sounding almost panicked. “427th do not engage, repeat do not engage. Covenant Separatist forces are protected under the Delta Alliance, and any motion against them would be a breech of the alliance. Do not engage!” Eric opened up the comm so the whole squad would get the order.



“You gotta be $#!Ttin’ me,” Hackett said in surprise, keeping her rifle trained on the aliens.



What happened next shocked the ODST. With mild disdain, the two Elites knelt in respect, the Grunts following suite. The Elites garbled in their native tongue, the Marines instantly understanding as their translation implants kicked in.



“Humans,” the Zealot growled, “I am Esa ‘Rimu. Events have occurred among our blood that would condemn us to death-“



“You want death, pendejo?” Riviera shouted as she took a step towards the Minor her rifle aimed at his face, “The hell’d you do to Earth? All these people dead, and for what? Your freakin’ Great Journey?”



“Riviera, stand down!” the Captain barked.



Though it was classified to the civilian public, most if not all Marines knew the name of the Covenant’s cause, but few knew the horrific details. Several Grunt prisoners had spouted on about the Great Journey when interrogated. They were the best information the UNSC could usually get- the Elites usually killed themselves when captured.



Hackett pulled the Corporal away from the Elite. “Hey, I know it’s tough,” she shouted, “Lord only knows what they’ve done to mah home. But this ain’t the time, ‘kay?” Riviera nodded, head-butting Hackett’s helmet in affirmation. Emily clapped her on the shoulder, letting her go.



The Minor stood up, his mandibles twitching in agitation. “I am Nosu ‘Vadam, “he said with a bow of his head, “My blood, and the rest of the Sangheili, honor our kaidon Thel ‘Vadam as Arbiter. His word is our command now, and he has made peace with your demon.”



“Our demon?” Eric asked as the Grunts chattered in fear, “What does that mean?”



Esa searched for another word. “Your Spartan; the one you call ‘Master Chief.’”



“He means Sierra-117, sir,” Hays realized, “I saw a documentary vid on his promotion when I was back on Reach.”



Eric gave a nod, lowered his rifle. The squad reluctantly following suite, though they didn’t seem any more comfortable with the situation. “You,” he pointed at the Zealot, “I want to know everything you know. Helljumpers, take five. Make sure the rest don’t go anywhere.”



“Sir…” Hays said worriedly over a private comm.



“Relax, Sarge,” he said, “If anything happens to me, you’re in command. As my final order to you; kill the bastards.”



“Now, sir?”



“No, only if this Zealot kills me, Sergeant. For now, stand down.” Hays nodded, giving a sharp salute as Eric and the Zealot walked towards a small playground partially surrounded by an artificially planted forest.



“Alright,” Eric said coldly, “start talking. Though I’m not complaining, why aren’t we dead?”



The Zealot huffed in mild amusement. “Even you admit our skill in battle. You are not dead because we are now allies, human. We have been enlightened to the truth of this war, and it would mean dishonor for our keeps were we to break this alliance.”



“So why’d you throw in the towel?” Eric asked, setting his helmet aside as he sat on a picnic table, “I thought your Covenant’s big thing was that you were all one big happy family.”



“Not so peaceful, human. The Prophets manipulated and lied to us. When we found out the truth, we left. Much blood was shed, and many Sangheili lost their lives, but in the end we were free. Now we side with your kind in hopes to stop Truth on his mad journey to become divine.”



“So why now?” Eric asked, “Why’d you finally come to your senses and split, instead of several decades ago when humanity didn’t flat out hate you?”



“We honored your people,” Esa told Eric, “Even as the Prophet’s willed us to destroy you. We wondered, ‘why? Why have the Prophets turned a blind hand to these humans?’ It was a confusing matter for us, one that shook our faith in the Prophet’s word.”



“Yeah?” Eric asked, sitting on a plastic bench, “Well you sure didn’t ease up in battle any. I lost too many good men to your kind.”



The Elite nodded in acknowledgment. “And I to your demon. However the Sangheili honored your dead, never treading on them once they rested. Your demon killed, and then ravaged our dead for their weapons.”



“He did what needed to be done to survive,” Eric argued.



“Survive he did,” the Elite said, “and we respect him no less for it. You humans do not know our ways; blood is not sacred to you as it is to us. We do not fault your demon for what he has done.”



Eric looked off to the Gateway Arch. “Would you kill him? If you met him, I mean.” He asked.



Esa studied the human for a while. “I would wish to; my blood cries for vengeance. But my honor would silence them, and I would spare him. I would feel no kinship for him, as I do not for you and yours; but I honor you, and I honor the demon.”



“Yeah,” Eric agreed, “I would have killed ya if you would have so much as flipped me off. But I had my orders to stand down, so you and your squad didn’t get an ass full of lead. Now we’re in the same boat with different looking oars.”



Esa nodded, understanding the tentative alliance.



“So what’s the plan?”



The Zealot pointed off in the distance to the Gateway Arch. “Your monument has been taken. The Jiralhanae have stolen it for their cruel devices. They have many Unggoy, and they have made them fear to fight more viciously.”



Eric waved a hand in confusion, “The hell’s a Jiral-hane? Or a- an ug-ugoy for that matter?”



“The Jiralhanae are what you call ‘Brutes’, and rightfully so.” Esa growled, “They have no honor. They would sooner kill their blood than serve it. The Unggoy are Grunts; they are weak in body and mind, but they serve without protest and are useful in large numbers.”



“But don’t you have Grunts with you?”



The Elite nodded. “Those Unggoy are loyal to us, not the Prophets. They accepted the truth of the Flood threat as well as the lies of the Prophets, and they have no love for the Jiralhanae.”



“Fair enough,” Eric nodded, “So what do we intend to do about the Brutes?”



The Zealot chuckled deeply, “We kill them, human, and then we take your city back.”
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Chapter 2



November 6, 2552 / St. Louis, Missouri / 12:00 CST



The next day, the ODST and Covenant Separatists moved into the city. The Marines were more tense than usual around the Elites, though Jimmy had taken an odd liking to the Grunts.



“So why Earth?” Riviera demanded, anger edging her voice, “Don’t you guys get all hot for giant floating rings in space?”



“Riviera,” the Sergeant warned, stress lacing his voice, “cool it.”



“I just can’t see a split-chin chillin’ on some beach in Tampico, sipping margaritas and taking in all the fine-“



“Riviera!” Rowas snapped in frustration, “Stow it, Corporal!”



“It’s crap sir!” she yelled, thrusting an accusing finger at the Elites, “They glassed México from Chiapas to Guadalajara Nuevo!”



Esa, the Zealot, growled and turned, grabbing Riviera’s armor and lifting her into the air, pinning the Marine to the wall of the building they were behind. The other five ODST raised their Battle Rifles- safeties on- and aimed them at the Zealot’s head.



“Drop her,” Rowas ordered through gritted teeth as Maria swung at the Elite in vain.



“Let me tell you something, human,” Esa growled to Riviera, stilling the Corporal, “Before the Covenant was made, before we of the Sangheili struck that wretched alliance, the Prophets nearly exterminated my kind from orbit like cowards. I have hated them ever since I was forced to serve them as a young warrior. When the Great Schism thundered the halls of High Charity, I gladly dropped my warrior’s title and became my own Sangheili. I am Esa ‘Rimu now; and I serve no Prophet.”



The Elite set the human on her feet, releasing her. The ODST squad lowered their weapons, James exhaling in relief. Riviera sneered, her pride hurt more than her ego, “Talk is cheap,” she muttered as she walked back into formation.



“My apologies, Helljumper,” the Elite bowed to James, “I thought perhaps a tough lesson would be appropriate.”



“Yeah well next time you leave that to me,” James said, steel lining his voice, “We clear, Zealot?” The Elite nodded in response.



“Of course, Captain.”



“Excellency!” one of the Grunts barked excitedly, “The monument! We’re here!” Though they still had several miles to go, the Grunt continued to rejoice that they had arrived only because it could see the shining silver arch. Its jubilation was cut short as a light blue beam lanced through the creature’s skull. The Grunt yelped, falling to the side. As it struck the pavement, its fingers squeezed the trigger on the plasma pistol in its clutch, a blob of green plasma bursting forward.



The shot struck the back of Riviera’s leg the plasma burning through her battledress, scorching her calf and searing her skin to the bone. She collapsed against the wall of the building, screaming in pain and anger as the rest of the squad scrambled for cover.



“Kig-yar!” The Elite Minor, Nosu, said, “I have not the weapons to hit the coward.”



“I got this,” Jimmy said, his voice cool and level, “just gimme a few minutes.”



Hackett ran to Riviera’s side, pulling a canister of Optican MedGel from her backpack, cracking the safety seal and spreading the white foam on Riviera’s calf.



The wounded Marine gritted her teeth, growling in pain as the foam expanded, filling and sterilizing the wound completely. She pulled her helmet off, setting it aside for fresh air. “Take it easy, hillbilly,” she snapped thankfully- in her own way.



“I ain’t loosin’ you, jalapeno,” the southern woman growled.



“It’s jalapeño, and it’s just a scratch.”



“The hell it is!” Hackett objected, “You’re whole calf’s missin’, you’ll be lucky if you don’t bleed out.” Worry was thick in her voice, as well as determination. “I ain’t loosin’ you,” she said firmly.



Maria looked to the foam, her brow furrowed. “Alright, fine. Do your thing,” she looked to her friend, trusting her to save her life; as a squad mate should.



Jimmy steadied his sniper rifle, the muzzle barely poking out of a heap of rubble. The scope just cleared the pile of trash, giving Cavetti a clear shot. He was fully covered behind the building, gripping the handle and butt of the rifle at a right angle. The scope’s image was displayed on his visor, allowing the ODST to remain behind cover and still shoot. “Crap,” he whispered, “Oi Richards, c’mere.”



The tough Martian crouched by Cavetti, “Yeah, Private; what’cha got?”



“I got seven Jackals, all holdin’ sniper rifles. I can take out four of ‘em before reloading, but I’ll need you to pop off some party favors for the other three.”



The Corporal chuckled and patted Cavetti on the shoulder. “You got it, Boston. Just tell me when to fire.”



James’ voice crackled over the snipers comm, “How’re we coming, Private?” he demanded, “I’m getting pretty tired of just sitting here.”



“Almost set, sir,” the Private responded, “awaiting Corporal Richards to get in position. Seven tangos about five-hundred yards west of our position, elevation three-hundred feet.”



“Richards, in position,” the Corporal whispered over the comm.



Cavetti calmed his hands, taking aim. “Taking the shot,” he whispered. Four shots broke the silence, a second separating each sharp ‘Crack!’ “Richards, fire!” he shouted.



Two thick rolls of ‘whumph!’ pounded Cavetti’s stomach. The 102mm HEAT missiles rushed over his head, racing towards the Jackal’s building. They slammed into the ruined office building, directly hitting the third floor. Fire and thick black smoke plumed outward, signifying a hit.



“They’re down!” Jimmy shouted, “Coast is clear, sir. Looks like we got a ride as well; there’s two transport ‘hogs- they look in good shape.”



“Perfect,” James grinned, “Alright ODST, double-time it to those Warthogs; we’ve wasted too much time here.” Hackett picked up Riviera, carrying her in a fireman’s carry as they moved out.



Esa nodded to Nosu as the Marines ran for the vehicles, the Minor relaying the same order to the Grunts. The Zealot gave a respectful nod to the fallen foot-soldier before loping after the humans.



James smirked in satisfaction as the M831 Troop Transport roared to life. The warthog featured a caged bench in the back rather than an M41 LAAG. It could seat up to seven Marines, five comfortably, and would be a great asset to the squad.



The vehicles had been hastily left by their previous operators. Plasma burns- at least eight feet in diameter- littered the battlefield, signifying that a Wraith tank had been in the area. One of the M831’s had been tipped on its side, though luckily it was unharmed. It had taken both of the Elites to right the three-ton vehicle on its wheels, making the ODST thankful for their new companions.



The squad of humans and aliens was evenly split. James and Hays both drove a warthog, with Esa in James’ passenger seat and Nosu in Hays’s. The two remaining Grunts occupied a seat in the back of each ‘Hog.



Richards and Jimmy rode in the back of James’ vehicle, with Hackett and Riviera in Hays’s. Emily was busy tending the wounded Corporal, her face stony in concentration.



James gave a thumbs-up to the Sergeant, the Warthogs tearing off towards the Gateway Arch. The monument was still approximately seven miles away from their current position, and James didn’t expect the Brutes to vacate the road just for them.



Dammit, he thought bitterly, I really hate Brutes. He had hoped on every lucky thing he knew that they wouldn’t encounter the vicious, ape-like aliens; but the news Esa had given him the day earlier confirmed that reclaiming the city wouldn’t be easy.



The two recon vehicles weaved between piles of debris and smoking vehicle ruins, bouncing every now and again. Hackett was forced to stabilize Maria with her hands, forgoing medical assistance as the rear of their vehicle bobbed up and down. The engines whirred loudly, masking the sound of outside contacts and making the journey that much more tense.



Esa winced as he caught a scent, growling to James, “Brutes, left side,” he pointed towards an abandoned shop of some sorts.



“Then we go right,” James responded. He spun the wheel rapidly, the Warthog fishtailing slightly as they cut onto an off-ramp, jumping onto I-70 south. Sergeant Hays followed after him, trying to make the turn as gentle as possible.



Suddenly blue and green orbs of plasma splashed against the rear of Hay’s Warthog. “Dammit!” Hackett swore, snatching her Battle Rifle from the floor. She clicked the safety off, returning fire. As she took down three Grunts, the Brute commanding them climbed onto a Ghost, roaring a challenge.



“Aw, hell,” the cowgirl grimaced as her shots ricocheted off the craft’s hull, “Hey Sergeant step on it!”



Hays looked behind them, accelerating to pulling up beside James. “Richards!” she shouted over the comm, “Take out that Ghost!”



“Yes ma’am!” he replied, hefting the M19. Blue plasma lanced towards the ‘Hog, urging the Captain to dodge to the side. As the vehicle swerved to avoid being hit, Jimmy fell right into the line of fire. Two bolts of plasma struck the ODST; one in the chest and the other in his gut. The Private cried out in pain, slumping to the floor of the cage.



“Corporal, take out that Ghost!” James ordered, “The quicker you do that, the better chance Private Cavetti has to survive!” Two vital indicators flashed in the Captain’s sight now; Maria’s orange and Jimmy’s red; the later blinking more rapidly. The mission wasn’t a scrap yet, but it would be if that Ghost kept at it.



Richards hefted the rocket launcher again, taking quick aim. “Dig this, mother-” his last words were drowned out in the deafening ‘whumph!’ as a rocket flew from the tube, striking the pavement in front of the purple, insect-like craft.



The Ghost flipped, dumping the Brute to the road. The alien growled in frustration as it jumped to its feet. As it flipped the vehicle, a second rocket hit the stationary target. The Ghost and Brute pilot went up in a bright flash of blue fire and plasma, charred purple shrapnel scattering across the road.



Richards wasted no time. He dropped the M19, grabbing a canister of MedGel from the Warthog. Evan pulled Jimmy back up to the bench, removing the sniper’s helmet so he could better aid the Marine. His face fell as Jimmy’s eyes stared blankly back at him.



“Sir,” the Corporal choked as he retrieved Jimmy’s dog-tags, “Private Cavetti-”



“I know,” James replied in quiet frustration. The Private’s vitals had gone black as the first rocket had been fired. It was never a good thing when Marines died, but James was sure the Corporal Richards would pay the Covenant back.



Captain Rowas was relieved to see Riviera’s vitals up to yellow. That meant that she was in a state of discomfort, but was battle-ready. “Riviera, I trust you’ll repay Hackett for covering your ass by keeping the road clear?” he asked over the comm.



“Yes sir, I will,” she replied, “Payback’s my name, and payback’s a bitch.”



“Glad to hear it. We’re approaching the Arch in approximately 3 miles, so get frosty Helljumpers.”



The two Warthogs barreled down the exit ramp, the Arch coming into clear view. There was still the occasional Grunt or Jackal squad on the highway, though as far as the squad could tell, there were no Covenant forces occupying the monument. James knew that it wouldn’t last, though, as word would get out that the ODST were reclaiming the Arch.



James floored the pedal, the Warthog’s engine whirring louder as they raced down the interstate. With any luck, they could get this job done today, and hopefully they wouldn’t lose any more soldiers.



Hopefully.
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Chapter 3



November 6, 2552/St. Louis, Missouri/14:00 CST



The Warthogs skidded to a halt in the shadow of the Arch. The ODST and their Covenant allies hopped from the vehicles, their weapons at the ready. Riviera took more care in moving than the rest, her leg being supported by nothing but solidified MedGel and battle-intense bandages.



Richards stayed by the Warthog for a moment, unable to draw his gaze from his dead squad mate. Eric clapped the Marine on the shoulder. “Hey,” he said, “we’ll get ‘em back, and we won’t leave Jimmy here.”



“Twenty-three,” Evan replied, “That jittery S-O-B was only twenty-three sir. He had his whole life ahead of him, and now he’s dead.”



“It’s not your fault, Corporal.” Rowas reassured the soldier, “it’s no one’s but the Covenant. Right now we need to secure a perimeter, so fall out.” Eric hated being so heartless, even if he didn’t seem to be, but they had a job to do.



To the south of the Arch the Old Cathedral still stood, having been taken care of as well as the monument. It would provide the Marines with excellent cover should they need it.



Esa motioned the Captain over, his attention on the top of the monument. As Eric headed over to the Elite, the Zealot pointed to the Arch. “Do you see that, human?”



Eric craned his head up, zooming his visor forward 2x to get a better view. “It looks like a spiky purple football,” he replied, “What is it?”



“A bomb.”



Eric’ attention snapped back to the Zealot, “A bomb? Well that’s just great. Tell me how to diffuse it.”



The Elite nodded, “It is a simple enough process, but if the device explodes it will destroy everything within three-thousand units.”



“I assume that means feet,” Rowas said as he imagined the damage, “Hell that would destroy most of this sector. I need to know specifics; what kind of bomb is it? How is it shut down?”



Nosu joined them, peering up at the device. “It is compressed plasma. When it explodes, it melts the metal casing, flinging it up to three-thousand units from that height. The plasma then covers the area, burning everything under its blanket.”



Hackett whistled while Riviera grimaced at the description. “Sounds wonderful. How do we stop it?”



Eric thought quickly, “Riviera, Hackett; I want you to get to the top of the Arch via rappelling lifts. They should reach all the way to the top. Once you arrive at the peak I want you to disarm the bomb.”



Nosu aided the humans. “You should only have to touch the bomb. There will be a pad in the form of a blue light-“



“Yeah, a holopad. Big deal.” Riviera interrupted.



“Press it,” the Minor growled in annoyance, “This will stop the bomb from detonating.”



Eric turned to the two ODST. “When you stop the countdown, I want you to get it down here. Drop it straight from the top, and then we’ll worry about deactivating it. Nosu, will that set the bomb off?”



The large alien shook his head, “No, but it might damage some of the interior crafting-“



“Perfect,” Eric interrupted, pointing to the Marines, “You two, snap to it,” He looked up to the sky, dark storm clouds rolling in. “Pronto. Those clouds could put a major damper on things.”



As the rest of the squad set up a defensive perimeter, Hackett and Riviera positioned themselves under the monument. “Ready?” Riviera asked her friend.



“Damn straight, let’s do this.”



Two thick magnetic nodes shot up from the ODST’s belts, traveling at a high velocity towards the top of the monument. Just when Emily thought the lines wouldn’t reach, the woven steel zip-cords snapped as the magnetic anchors fastened tightly to the Arch. The lines could support up to five hundred pounds of pressure, allowing an ODST to catch another falling; if the even occurred.



The two soldiers pressed the auto-retracts on their belts, the device centered onto a built-in rappelling harness. They were lifted comfortably and quickly into the air, racing closer to the explosive threat.



“Whew,” Hackett breathed in amazement, “We can see everything from up here.”



Riviera pulled a portable spin-saw from her backpack. The bomb was fixed into position, metal spikes digging deep into the Monument. “Six-hundred and thirty feet,” she said as she began to cut the spikes.



“What?”



“630 feet, that’s how high up we are.” She worked quickly, the bomb dropping to the pavement below with a heavy ‘thud!' as the last spike was cut.



“Well,” Hackett said with a grin, “we’ve been higher before.”



Riviera chuckled slyly, “In more ways that one chica.” Her mood quickly darkened, however, as she looked to the west. “Chinga!” she swore, opening the comm, “Sir, you got Covenant inbound, ETA right-damn-now!”



Eric readied his rifle, “Where at Corporal?”



“Brute squads coming in from Washington Avenue and Memorial Drive- oh, man, sir they’ve got Hunters!”



Eric swore. “How many, Corporal? I need numbers.”



“At least six, sir.”



“$#!T! All units,” he ordered quickly, “defensive positions! Richards, cover those Hunters. Hackett, Riviera- double-time it on that bomb.” The squad took cover behind the Warthogs, checking their ammo and taking strategic positions.



“Go, Hackett, go!” Riviera yelled as they hit the release on their zip-lines. They dropped rapidly, their descent slowing as they reached five feet above the ground.



The ODST detached their cords, leaving them dangling to the Arch. Riviera swore again as she hit the ground, the bio-foam cracking slightly. Hackett helped her to run as they headed towards the rest of the squad, taking cover with the Elites.



A Hunter lumbered in to sight, his Bond Brother two steps behind. Thunder echoed off the buildings as Richards loosed two rockets, painting the street orange. Dozens of Grunts followed, being met with a barrage of bullets and plasma.



Riviera shot from behind the front wheel of the ‘Hog, taking down several of the little bastards before having to reload. ‘Whumph! Whumph!’ Two rockets flew over the other M831, signifying another Hunter pair as down.



“I’m out!” Richards shouted, tossing the spent M19 aside. As the rocket launcher hit the pavement rain began to fall; faintly at first, but growing in intensity.



Hackett primed an M9 HE-DP grenade. “Frag out!” she shouted before hurling the explosive towards the Covenant mob. The device detonated, sending Grunts and Brutes scattering. A blue orb sailed through the air in an arc at the same time, landing on the hood of the Warthog.



“Grenade!”



The two Elites and humans scrambled from the Warthog, diving behind the second one as it exploded. Sergeant Hays reloaded frantically. “Sir, this is FUBAR! I’m running out of ammo and I’m sure I’m not the only one. We’ve got to get out of here now!”



Eric glanced over the hood of the remaining ‘Hog. Five brutes remained, one of them a Captain while the rest were Minors. Each Brute commanded at least a dozen Grunts. He ducked back behind the ‘Hog as a shot of plasma hit the hood in front of him. reloading as well. “Agreed Sergeant,” he grunted.



Hackett looked to the bomb, the blue holopad beginning to pulse slowly. “That sounds like a great plan, sir. I recommend we get tha hell out of here now!”



Eric growled in frustration, giving the order. “All units fall back to the Cathedral; that means Elites too. Move it!”



The squad quickly retreated, sometimes turning to fire at the Covenant troops behind them. Nosu suffered a plasma shot to the shoulder, overloading his shields and scorching his armor. One of their Grunts went flying as a Brute Shot grenade detonated at its feet.



Richards stopped after opening the Cathedral door, turning to cover the squad as the Covenant quickly followed them. Hackett once again helped Riviera to run, her leg now seeping blood through the biofoam. As they made it up the Cathedral steps, a blob of blue plasma hit Riviera in the side, knocking her to the right.



“Dammit!” Hackett swore, helping her friend through the doors. The made their way down the aisle, Riviera slumping into a pew towards the front.



“Did you diffuse the bomb?” Eric asked Hackett.



“Negative, sir!” she shouted, hitting the ground, “I‘d get down if I was you.”



The mixed squad dropped to the floor as the windows shattered in, blue plasma flames licking at the edges. The explosion shook the entire building, but the structure stood for the most part.



Sergeant Hays rolled to the side as the two thick oak doors flew down the aisle, slamming into the wall behind her. They clipped the Grunt, who chirped before tumbling with the hit, a pool of blue blood spreading under the still corpse. The pews towards the doors caught fire, quickly being extinguished as the wind from the explosion whipped past.



“Report!” Eric shouted when everything went still. He didn’t need to, he knew the squad’s status; it was just an old habit that died hard. He cringed, seeing a squad mate’s orange indicator blinking slowly.



“God-dammit,” Riviera growled from the floor, pulling her helmet off and dropping it to the side. Blood seeped from her leg, and her face was slick with perspiration.



Corporal Hackett crawled to the wounded Helljumper, pulling her second and last can of MedGel from her pack. “Aw, hell, Jalapeno…” she chuckled, seeing the large, melted patch of armor on Riviera’s left side- a close shot.



The Corporal shook her head, knowing it could have been much worse. “Yeah,” she smirked, “Guess I’m one lucky bitch.”



Hackett nodded, replacing the Optican in her pack. “I guess I gotta still help you walk,” she said, motioning to her seriously wounded leg., “We’ll get that fix’d proper when we get to a base.”



Riviera nodded, taking two breaths before sitting up, her hand still clutching Hackett’s.



Eric moved over to the wounded Helljumper. “This isn’t over yet, Corporal,” he told her, “You think you can still fight?”



Riviera smirked, “You bet your ass, sir,”



As she said that, a hearty chuckle came from the doorway. A Brute Chieftain leered at the squad, dressed in gold, tribal-looking armor and brandishing a Gravity Hammer. With a challenging roar, Esa drew an Energy Sword from his hip. As he squeezed the handle, the sweeping blue arcs of plasma leapt to life with a sharp ‘crack!’ of heated air.



The Zealot charged the Chieftain, ducking under the hammer as it roared overhead. He cut up with the blade, slicing the Brute’s power armor and damaging it critically.



The Chieftain roared in rage, hitting Esa with the butt of the hammer and knocking the Elite to the floor. As the hammer swung down, the Zealot rolled quickly to the side. A burst of energy knocked the Elite into the wall, as well as several broken pews.



Esa quickly rose to his feet, slashing his sword behind him. The plasma connected with flesh and metal, taking the Brute Chieftain’s hand and cutting the hammer’s shaft in two. As the Brute howled in pain, it shouldered the Zealot in the chest, pushing him back into the wall.



“Damnable Sangheili!” the Brute shouted as it stomped Esa’s hand to the wall. The Elite lost his grip on the energy sword, the blade deactivating and dropping harmlessly to the ground. The Zealot growled and kicked the Chieftain in the gut, sending the Brute reeling backwards. He wrestled with the ape-like alien, both matched in strength.



Nosu roared in anger, rushing forward to club the Chieftain in the back of the neck with his plasma rifle. There was a sharp ‘snap!’ that silenced the Brute. The Chieftain looked dazed, the light going out of its eyes. It slumped onto Esa, its spine severed. Esa nodded his thanks to the Minor, pushing the corpse to the floor. “Many thanks, ‘Vadam. You shall be rewarded for this.”



The Minor pressed a fist to his chest, bowing his head in respect, “My honor, Mighty One.”



Eric and his squad headed out of the Cathedral with the Elites. The two Separatists had planned to stay in the city, aiding more troops and civilians to fight the Loyalists that remained, however they were all that was left of their lance. Esa felt they would be a better service with the human squad. As the ODST passed out of the Cathedral, they stopped to observe the battle’s aftermath.



The blast had all but destroyed the entire block, the front of the Cathedral charred and damaged. The Gateway Arch still stood, but barely. A second explosion would topple the tentative monument, but for now its reinforced tetra-steel- a titanium alloy- held the monument in place. The Covenant surrounding the Arch had been completely wiped out, never standing a chance against the accidental trap. A steady rain poured over the still-smoking corpses, doing little to clean up the mess.



The Captain’s comm hissed with static, “427th Battalion, this is Pelican dropship Foxtrot two-eight-six of the 381st; Do you copy?”



“Roger that, Pelican 286,” Eric replied, “good to hear from you. I take it you’re our ride home?”



“Yes, sir, we’ve orders to take you to Ft. Manning in Springfield, Illinois,” the pilot responded, “This weather’s playing hell with our flight-paths, but we’ll have you outta there in no-time. ETA three minutes.”



“Copy that, Foxtrot-286, holding position for evac.” Eric replied. He shouldered his Battle Rifle, surveying the city as he sat on the Cathedral steps.



“Well, sir,” Sergeant Hays said, as she stood next to him, “I’d say we did a job well done,” She sat down on the steps, her visor decreasing to 10% polarization, “Though I do apologize for assuming you would compromise the mission, sir.” She said humbly.



“Ah, don’t even worry about it Hays,” he said with a smile, “I was half worried about that myself.”



She smiled, looking up as the Pelican roared into view. The Vertical Take Off and Landing aircraft- or VTOL for short- struggled in the wind and rain but never straying from its intended path.



“You think this is over?” Hays said, motioning to the dead Covenant littering the street.



“For St. Louis? Maybe,” he replied, getting to his feet as the dropship touched down, “But I have a feeling this is the start of a very long winter. I’m sure we’ll have to fight some Covie bastard with a problem. But anytime we come back alive is a victory, so I’ll drink to this.”



The ODST climbed into the troop-bay of the Pelican, an unusually slow Hackett helped support Riviera, who was keeping all weight off her wounded leg. They would have recovered Jimmy, but the ODST and two Warthogs had been incinerated in the bomb’s blast. The Elites climbed in last, taking the seats directly next to the hermetic cabin hatch.



The Pelican lifted vertically into the air once the squad was aboard, the rear hatch sealing shut with a faint hiss. “So Illinois, huh?” Riviera asked with a slight grin as the Pelican picked up speed, “Hope it’s better than this dump.” She chuckled, knowing it was the Captain’s home.



Eric smirked, leaning towards Maria. “Hey Riviera,” he said, “You got something on your face.”



The Corporal shook her head, leaning forward though she knew what was coming. Eric pointed to her then playfully slapped her, pushing her back to the bench with a chuckle.



“Shouldn’t do that, sir,” Riviera jeered, “I’m in pain.”



“You’re so full of it,” Hackett said, elbowing her friend, “We all know you’re the toughest gal on the squad.”



Richards smirked, “I thought I was the toughest?”



“Naw, you’re the thickest. But hey, if you wanna be a gal then have at it.” Hackett grinned.



The cabin’s comm clicked. “Reaching Ft. Manning in five, sir.” The pilot gave the squad a heads-up. Suddenly warning sirens sounded through the ship. “Ah, $#!T! Covie Banshees inbound – take evasive action, dammit!” The Pelican veered sharply to the left, the ODST grabbing quickly grabbing for handholds. “Hang tight back there,” the pilot shouted tensely, “They’re circling around!”



The Pelican quickly spun a full 360 degrees, the engines and vents whirring in strain. From the hatch-windows, the ODST could see bright green fuel rod missiles skim past the Pelican. “Jesus,” Eric coughed as the air craft righted, “I didn’t know a Pelican could do that.”



“To be honest, sir,” the pilot said in relief, “Neither did I.”



Nosu’s mandibles twitched as he shook his head, “You humans fly like Kig-Yar – erratically and unpredictable. It is no wonder the Brutes in their Banshees have trouble fighting you in the air.”



“Hey, I just got an idea.” Riviera grunted as she let go of the mesh hand-holds, “Let’s not do that again.” As the squad recovered, one of the Banshees exploded in a fireball of orange and blue.



The team’s comm fuzzed, “Pelican F-286 this is the 87th Hornet Squadron. We’ll take care of your pest problem, proceed to Ft. Manning.”



The Pelican’s pilot chuckled in relief. “Roger that, 87th, we owe you one.” The Pelican roared as it descended, kicking up dust and loose gravel. “Leveling out, 300 feet.” The pilot said calmly, “Approaching Ft. Manning now.”



The Pelican maneuvered skillfully over the gate, the thick grey blast-doors guarded by a makeshift Anti-air battery of M12GI Warthogs. Unlike the M12 LRV, these Warthogs featured an M68 Gauss Cannon in place of a standard M41 LAAG.



The VTOL dropship touched down gracefully on the Air Pad’s tarmac, kicking up a final cloud of dust as the engines slowly spun to a halt. The cockpit door slid open as the pilot grinned at the ODST. “Welcome to Ft. Manning, Gateway to Hell.”
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Chapter 4



November 7, 2552/Ft. Manning/Springfield, Illinois/11:00 CST



Captain Rowas rode in the passenger side of a Warthog to the base’s ONI building. The base was only five miles across and considered to be small, but the Office of Naval Intelligence insisted on keeping an eye on most of the UNSC’s operations.



He stopped as the doors verified his IFF tag, sliding open when he was cleared. Office 43-A, he remembered, stopping and knocking at the door. “Enter,” an oddly familiar voice said.



Eric opened the door, stepping inside. “$#!T,” he exclaimed, recognizing the officer, “Kelly.”



The officer smirked, motioning to a seat, “That’s Colonel Harbison to you, Captain.”



“Must have happened after you walked out.”



“Let’s try to keep this professional, shall we?” She pulled a file up on her monitor. “Do you know why you’re here, Captain?” She asked as she folded her hands over the keypad.



“I have a feeling it’s about St. Louis.”



The Colonel nodded in confirmation, “You would be correct. What the hell were you thinking, Captain? You nearly destroyed the St. Louis Arch – which, need I remind you, has stood for -”



“Five hundred years, yeah I know.”



The Colonel exhaled in annoyance. “Aside from that, you and your squad preformed excellently given the circumstances. However that isn’t the focus of our meeting. I understand that you brought two Elites with you to Ft. Manning, and I also assume that you’ve been told about the events concerning the Covenant’s Civil War.”



“$#!T went down with their leaders and the Elites pretty much got the shaft. Now the split-chins are on our side.”



Colonel Harbison grimaced, “More or less, yes. I want you to keep tabs on the Elites, make sure they’re not double crossing us. I don’t fully trust them, and I’m sure most Marines on this base don’t as well. If you see anything suspicious, I want you to report it ASAP.”



Eric sighed, “Yes, Ma’am.” He had no real intention to spy on their new allies, no matter what their background was. He saw all the background he needed in St. Louis, and he wasn’t about to look a heavily-armed gift horse in the mouth.



“Now, I understand you lost your sniper, Corporal James Cavetti,” the Colonel said, pulling up a second file, “You will be reassigned a sniper from the 5th Battalion; a Marine, one Private First Class Declan O’Connor. You’ll also be assigned a Special-Forces Marine; First Lieutenant Janissary James.”



“And what does Lieutenant James specialize in?”



Harbison smirked, “Damn near everything. Sniping, demolitions, close quarters battle, recon – you name it.”



Eric shook his head knowing it would play hell with the squad, “Well why don’t we just send her in on her own then?” A thought struck him, “Hell, you’re not assigning me a tin-man, are you?”



Kelly shook her head, “Not quite, Captain, she’s a Spartan 1.1.”



“Meaning?”



“She’s the child of a Spartan I, James James.”



Rowas laughed, “What the hell kind of name is James James?”



“A fake one; his files are strictly classified, as are Janissary’s. What you now know is all you need to know about her.” The Colonel stood, signifying the end of the meeting.



After an awkward salute, Eric asked his biggest question, “What happened between us, Kelly?” The Colonel sighed, giving him a tired look. It was the question she didn’t want to answer.



“The job happened, Eric, and the war. You’re a Helljumper, and that’s just too much to handle. It’s not like you were looking to go steady, after all.”



“Well,” Eric said as he turned to the door, “Looks like ONI doesn’t know everything after all.”



*******​



Hackett relaxed in the Recreations room of the Barracks with Evan and Maria. She sat in a wood chair, leaning against the wall with her feet propped up on a table. A beer was in her hand, an import from Luna named Golden Orbit. She had changed into more comfortable clothes, as had the rest of the squad. She wore a green BDU shirt, tied in the center of her chest, and her pants were cut into a pair of shorts. Somehow she had procured a cowboy hat, and wore it low over her eyes.



“You plannin’ on joining this game?” Riviera asked the southern girl. She and Evan had been playing a billiard game called “Moons” for the past fifteen minutes. Her leg was bound in a cast that only covered her calf, keeping the injury supported while newly attached muscles bonded with the ligaments and tendons.



“Nah, I’ll let ya’ll have a ball,” Hackett smirked.



The door to the room slid open as a thin, well-built man walked through. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, at most 24. His light-brown hair was partially covered with a cap, and a sniper rifle case was slung over his shoulders.



“This is th’ 427th Battalion?” he asked, an Irish accent thick in his voice.



“Yeah,” Riviera asked, “Who wants to know?”



He set his SRS aside, saluting smartly, “PFC Declan O'Connor. I was reassigned to your squad.”



“$#!T,” Hackett scoffed, “Kid ain’t even ODST,”



Richards set his stick down, heading over to the new sniper. He towered menacingly over the newbie, eyeing him like a hawk. “Now you listen up, Marine,” he said softly, “Our last sniper was a very good friend of ours, and we wasn’t able to take him home to bury him. You got some tall shoes to fill, son, so don’t expect a warm welcome.”



The Marine swallowed nervously, “Aye sir, understood.”



Richards gave Declan a pat on the shoulder before heading back to the Moons table “Welcome to the 427th, kid.”



As the nervous sniper sat down across from Hackett a girl walked through the door. She was dressed in civilian clothes, and barely looked 18. Her dark brown hair was cut short, a few inches longer than a crew cut.



“The hell is this?” Riviera said in irritation, “What are we, the UNSC Daycare now?”



“What’s the matter with you?” the girl asked, “Bite into a habañero the wrong way?”



Riviera set her moons stick on the table with a sharp ‘snap!’ She walked towards the girl, “The hell’d you just say to me?” Richards and Hackett both tensed, ready to stop the Helljumper from injuring herself further.



“I think you heard me just fine,” the girl said snidely. She soon found a very angry ODST in her face.



“You got a smart mouth, chica, but your brain’s still catchin’ up. This isn’t where high school comes to play, this is the military.”



“Look,” the girl said shaking her head, “You’re obviously injured, so why don’t you just go back to your game?”



Maria scoffed, “What, you think I can’t take you?”



The girl didn’t show an ounce of concern, “Yeah, that’s exactly what I think, and I don’t want to be the one to reapply your leg cast.” Riviera swung at the girl, swearing at her. She caught Maria’s fist, twisting it up with impossible dexterity and pushing the ODST to her knees.



“The hell!” Riviera shouted in pain, “You’re a freakin’ Spartan?”



“Yeah, almost,” the girl said as she pushed the Corporal away.



Hackett stood up, walking over to help Riviera up. “Who tha hell do you think you are, girl?” she asked angrily, checking on Riviera’s cast.



The girl gave a half-hearted salute, “First Lieutenant Janissary James, ma’am. What are you, the Major?”



The squad looked to the new girl, their expressions changing to shock. “Oh,” Hackett said, “Naw, you outrank all of us. In fact, you outrank the Sarge.”



“Cap ain’t gonna like this,” Richards said.



As if on cue, Sergeant Hays walked into the Recreations room, heading to the fridge. “Well, I see we’ve all become acquainted,” she said, noting the raised tempers and Riviera’s stressed wound. She pulled a bottle from the fridge, taking a seat. “I also see we’ve picked up new blood.”



Declan saluted again, though remained in his seat. “PFC Declan O'Connor, ma’am. I’m the new sniper for ya, or so I am told.”



Hays nodded, looking to James and taking a drink. “What’s with the girl?”



Jan sighed, standing up from the wall and giving another salute. “First Lieutenant Janissary James, ma’am, Special-Forces. I’ve been assigned here by Colonel Kelly Harbison, Section One. ”



Dana blinked in surprise, setting her drink down and returning the salute. “Ma’am,” she said with an awkward hush, “Might I ask how you achieved the rank so quickly?” she asked, curious as to how a kid was already an officer.



Jan smirked, “I’m really good a pulling strings I guess, and I’ve got friends in Section One.”



“She’s a Spartan, ma’am,” Riviera said, giving Jan a glaring glance, “Damn spooks probably stuck her with us to keep an eye on the split-chins.”



“Oh, goody,” Jan sighed, “Aliens.”



Captain Rowas chose that moment to join the squad. He closed the door behind him, looking more than a little agitated. He looked to O’Connor and James, then motioned to a separate room, “Hays, a word?”



As they stepped into the separate room, Eric shut the door with a firm ‘slam!’ Hackett gave a low whistle, “Man, Cap’s pissed,” she observed, “I would not want to be the Sarge right now.”



“Wonder what she did to get him so worked up,” Riviera said, “She’s his favorite, after all.”



*******​



Sergeant Hays was wondering the same thing her squad was. “Did I do something wrong, sir?” She asked; worry lining her usually calm voice.



“No, it’s those damn spooks,” Eric confirmed, “I’m sure you’ve already met our wonder-kid, Lt. James?”



Dana nodded, “Yes sir,” she said flatly, “Looks like I’m dropped a peg.” Though she hid her emotions, Eric could tell that she was used to being second-in-command, and wasn’t pleased at being replaced with a kid.



“Well, if I had my way she’d be spending time in some other squad.”



Hays shook her head, “Eric– sir, I know that this will be a huge change for the squad dynamics, but she is a Spartan. She’ll be a huge asset to the squad, and may even be up to snuff with our – line of work.” She gave a quirky smirk.



Eric exhaled slowly, nodding in approval. “That’s why I like you as second-in-command, Hays.”



She smirked again, “Just second-in-command, sir?” Eric didn’t reply, giving her a worried glance, “Oh come on, Eric,” she said with a slight shove, “I’ve known you were partial to me ever since you took my advice on Neptune. Remember how that turned out?”



Eric nodded, “Richards had a concussion for three weeks because the Innies rigged the complex.”



“Yeah,” she laughed, “it was a $#!Tty call to storm the fort. But you had us do it because I suggested it.”



Eric leaned on a table, sighing some in inner conflict. “Just- Do me a favor and don’t mention this to any of the higher-ups, yeah?”



Dana chuckled some, moving towards the door. “No prob, Cap. Our secret’s safe with me.” She stopped and gave him a light kiss on the cheek before moving back into the common room, “Just keep it on your end too.”



Eric gave a brief laugh, watching her leave. These were the things that could make or break a squad, so he had to play it careful. He followed her back into the common room, addressing the squad.



“Alright Helljumpers- and Marines- We’ve had a rough day. I know that you’ve all gotten acquainted with one another and that it didn’t go so well, but that’s going to have to be put aside. We’ve got orders to head for Chicago by Warthog. Our first objective is to aid Marines at Zone 08. The Tactical Autonomous Robotic Defense System testing facility has been overrun by Covenant forces, and we’re to help take it back.



“Secondly we have a mission straight from ONI, which is why we’re being joined by Lt. James. The Covenant have been told of some artifact called the “Key of Onsanalon,” and have attacked Cleveland, Ohio in search of it. After we clean up the TARDS facility, we’re to hop a Pelican to Ohio and do what we can there.”



The Captain looked over the squad, seeing no confused faces. That was good; less explaining to do. “Those are our orders,” he said after a moment, “We head out at 04:00 on the 9th. Take this time to recuperate and relax, but I want no fighting between you all. Is that clear?”



“Sir, yes sir,” The squad rang out, some less enthusiastically as others. James nodded, “Dismissed.” The squad went back to their activities. Richards and Riviera finished up their Moons game, while Jan joined Hackett and Declan for a drink.



Hays watched the Captain leave, then glanced to the squad. They seem to be fine now, she thought, I’m sure they don’t need watching. She downed her Golden Orbit, then followed Eric out of the Recreations room.
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Chapter 5



November 9, 2552/Ft. Manning/Springfield, Illinois/04:23 CST



The squad was active before 04:00, already suited up and prepping their Warthogs. They had three M12 Warthogs; enough to fit the entire squad and the two accompanying Elites. Esa and Nosu had been informally interrogated by Colonel Harbison, and had given separate but matching reports on the incident in St. Louis. Though she would never publicly admit it, the Colonel shifted most of the blame for the partial destruction of the Gateway Arch onto the Elites.



Hackett was busy loading MedGel into the Warthog’s armored trunks. They had enough space to fit several rounds of ammo for the squad, as well as seven MedGel canisters each. She slid the supply drawer back underneath the turret platform, securing it in place. “We’re all set ta go, Sarge,” The Corporal said, wiping her brow, “We’ve got enough meds ta bring one-a us back from the dead.”



“Well let’s hope it doesn’t come to that Corporal,” Hays smirked, “How are we on ammo?”



“Full clips each and then some, twenty-four rockets and plenty of sniper rounds. We’ve got enough to take on a full Covenant army.”



“Music to my ears, Corporal,” Hays said, “Report to Captain Rowas and Lieutenant James in the Armory.” Dana ordered, still upset about ONI nosing in on their operations- though it didn’t show on her face.



“Yes, ma’am,” Hackett saluted before heading off to the Armory. Hays checked the fuel levels on the hydrogen engines, and then headed to the Motor Pool’s office to authorize the three M12’s for use.



Rowas looked up as Hackett passed through the door. “The ‘hogs are ready to go sir,” she reported. The squad moved out, the Elites joining them as they arrived at the Warthogs. The aliens didn’t look too happy- most likely due to Colonel Harbison.



“Your commander is an honor-less wretch,” Esa growled to Eric, “She would place the entirety of the war on our shoulders.”



Eric glanced at the Zealot, a faint grin tugging at the corner of his mouth, “Well I’ll agree with you on her manners, but your Covenant has been slowly wiping us out.”



“This is true, but we were always told that your kind fired first.” The Elite rebutted.



“And you always believe everything your Prophets told you?” Esa remained silent, nodding in acknowledgement of the truth behind Eric’s words.



“Richards, you’re gunning for me and Esa you’re riding shotgun. Riviera and Hackett, you’re with Hays. Nosu and O’Connor, you’re with James. Load up,” the Captain ordered, “We’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”



The squad headed to the Motor Pool. “Shotgun!” Hackett shouted, grinning at Riviera as she hopped into the Warthog’s side seat.



“Oh, you suck,” Riviera sneered, “I got a busted leg still, and you want me jumping around on the turret?”



“Yeah, well who’s gonna heal your a*s if I get shot up there?” Hackett pointed out with a smirk.



“Damn, you gotta point.”



While Jan climbed into her the Captain leaned on the vehicles side. “You certified to drive one of these, Lieutenant?” he teased.



“Well I stole one when I was ten, sir,” she replied snidely.



Eric shook his head. “Look, I know you’re not getting the best greeting here—“



“You think?”



“—but we are a tight squad.” The Captain finished with a stern edge. “We’ve been through a lot together, and I can guarantee you that the squad won’t easily take orders from you.”



Jan gave the Captain a confused look. “What, you think I want to take over?” when Eric didn’t respond she continued, “Look, I’m in this for one reason; to do my part. If the Navy wants to promote me up to a Lieutenant just because I’m some ‘wonder kid,’ then that’s their business.



“I know I didn’t earn the rank, and so does the squad. I’m not going to pull rank for every tiny little decision to undermine the Sarge; I really could care less what you and your squad do, I just file reports.”



James nodded, heading to his ‘Hog. ”I hope you also know how to fire that rifle of yours, Lieutenant.”



Jan shook her head as she fired up the Warthog. She glanced over at the blue-armored Elite next to her, scowling deeper. She didn’t sign up for this. She signed up because she felt that she owed it to her dad.



James James was a Spartan-I, and really the only person that had ever gotten Jan. Only a month ago, Jan had been captured by a grubby little thug named Thin Kinkle. Thin had tortured her, made her wish for death, and then broke her innocence forever. Her father had come to save her, fighting through dozens of thugs. The act had cost James his life.



The squad didn’t have to get her; they didn’t have to understand her anger. She was just here to fight, to make her dad proud.



Nosu glanced over at the human as the convoy took off. “You seem troubled,” he noted, “As well as new to combat. Have you ever taken a life?”



Jan stared straight ahead, keeping her eye on the road and her hands steady on the wheel. “No. Not yet, I haven’t.”



The Elite scoffed. “You have yet to kill, and yet they allow you on a mission? In our culture, one must kill an adversary to be considered an adult Sangheili.”



Jan gave the alien a scathing sidelong glance. “What, you don’t think I can cut it?” she accused.



“How could you stand the glory of battle, having not taken a life? A young Sangheil, much less a female, does not belong on the battlefield.”



Jan watched the road for a while, her knuckles white on the wheel. “My father was killed in front of me. He was shot in the head while I was held captive; helpless like a goddamn trapped mouse. I’m fighting because that what I feel he would have wanted.



“And before you go into your “Glory and Honor” BS,” she shot at the Elite, “I’m not like you. There was nothing I could have done to save my father, so now I’m making it up by helping fight the war.”



Nosu nodded, remaining silent in respect for the young human’s pain.



“James, how you holding up?” Rowas’ voice crackled in her earpiece.



She rolled her eyes, “Oh, absolutely wonderful, sir. We’re having a ball of a time back here.”



Eric remained silent for a while. “Glad to hear it, Lieutenant. O’Connor, keep a sharp eye out. The last thing we need is plasma lancing up our six.”



Declan swiveled some on the LAAG. “Roger that, sir.”



Jan smirked, shaking her head. “Don’t get too excited, Soldier Boy.”











Dana watched the Warthog in front of her- Jan’s. She didn’t lie when she said that Lt. James would be an asset to the squad, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.



“Ya’ll right, Sarge?” Hackett asked from the passenger seat, “Ya look a little on-edge.”



“We’re in a war, Hackett. Who wouldn’t be?”



The cowgirl smirked, “Yeah, but I think it’s more than that.” When the Sergeant didn’t respond, Emily switched to a closed comm, “Look, I know she’s got rank and everything, but I ain’t gonna listen to the Spartan, Sarge. Even if you’re just relaying her orders, I take ‘em from you or the Captain. James may be a Lieutenant, but she ain’t ODST.”



Hays smirked at the Corporal. “I know nothing.”



“Oi,” Riviera interrupted, “When you two are done chatting, we’ve got a couple Prowlers, four-o’clock!”



“Sh*t!” Hays shouted, “All Warthogs, evasive maneuvers! Pull back on the throttle and let them get in front of us. Riviera, Richards, O’Connor; open fire when targets present themselves.



“Esa, Nosu and Hackett, provide supporting fire. Try to aim for the gunner or the pilot; keep the shots few and far in between.”



“Oh, God,” Declan moaned, his face paling as he gripped the turret’s handles tighter.



Jan whipped around to face the sniper, her expression stern, “Now is not the time to flake out, Marine! Keep your aim steady and on the tangos; you’re the only real firepower this hunk of junk has.”



Her directness impressed Nosu. Perhaps he had not acted rashly in suggesting they stay with the Human squad. Still, he had a feeling that the humans would need his and Esa’s help if they were to truly survive against the Covenant Loyalists.



The Brutes growled excitedly, excitement for the chase showing in their cruel eyes. As bright blue plasma lanced past them Hays slammed on her brake, swerving to the left to avoid James’ hog. Lieutenant James and Captain Rowas did the same, each carefully avoiding a collision.



The Brutes shot past the Warthogs, the gunners turning in confusion. The LAAG’s mounted on the Warthogs thundered to life, spilling brass casings across the pavement.



Tracer rounds bounced off the crude-looking metal of the Prowler, showing where the occasional bullet would ricochet. Still, the metal was being weakened.



The ODST’s moment of surprise fled as the Brute gunners turned to fire back at them. Blue plasma splashed over Dana’s windshield, warping the glass slightly. “Dammit!” she screamed, “Riviera, aim for the turret!”



Maria swept the line of bullets across the craft, the rounds hitting the Brute manning the first Prowler. O’Connor and Richards followed suite, soon taking out the second Prowler’s gunner.



One of the Brute passengers growled as the five vehicles raced across the Interstate. It hurled what looked like a stick, the spikes on the primitive weapon stuck into the hood of Jan’s Warthog. She raised a brow, confused. The device then started to blink. “Oh, fu-” Jan moaned before the Spike Grenade exploded.



Her Warthog flipped through the air, landing on the driver’s side. The vehicle then tumbled violently, glass and broken metal flying everywhere.



“Sh*t!” Hays spun her wheel, trying to avoid the wreckage. Her Warthog hit James’ at an odd angle, sending the Sergeant crashing into a roadblock. The crew quickly dove from the vehicle as the Engine went critical, the Warthog exploding into a twisted wreck.



Jan lay pinned beneath the wrecked Warthog, her vision blurry. Something seemed to lightly punch her stomach twice, but she couldn’t tell what it was. She could tell that blood was flowing slowly down her forehead, but there wasn’t much pain.

The last thing she saw was Hackett running towards her, pulling a can of MedGel from her pack as though it was second nature. Then darkness took her vision.
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Author's Note: I would like to say that reviews/comments are very welcome. I'm interested in hearing what you guys think.:)
 

Haven923

Jr Member
EPIC. I could see that being the basis for a movie. I admit, I only had the attention span to read the prologue :rolleyes Just two things that i remembered that could be fixed. Minor typos:





-The small unit you described does not qualify as a battallion. it would be a squad, or, if you wanted, a platoon.



-Flat out should be flat-out.







I'm jsut proof reading ;)
 

The Ragin Pagan

Well-Known Member
Haven923 said:
-The small unit you described does not qualify as a battallion. it would be a squad, or, if you wanted, a platoon.



-Flat out should be flat-out.



I'm jsut proof reading ;)



No, it's cool :) I would encourage you to read on; I feel it only gets better.
 
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